Thiruvananthapuram: Despite an appeal by the Catholic Church for an alcohol-free Christmas, liquor sales in Kerala appear to be heading for an all time high of about $516 million.
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of the Roman Catholic Church in Kerala has urged believers in his Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese to stay away from alcohol and celebrate Christmas in a sober and meaningful way.
According to the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC), the sole wholesaler of liquor and beer in the state, liquor sales are likely to go up by 26 per cent by the end of the month, especially during Christmas celebrations.
"The sales may go up till Rs 250 million only on December 24 and December 25. Last year the sales on the corresponding dates were Rs 200 million," an official, who did not want to be identified, told IANS here.
In a letter addressed to the almost 95,000 families in his archdiocese, Cardinal Vithayathil, the head of the Syro Malabar Church, said he regretted that alcohol consumption had become vital part of all Christian celebrations, whether Christmas, Easter or family occasions. But no one seems to have paid heed to his plea.
Total liquor sales went up from 8.6 million cases last November to 9.4 million cases this year and beer sales also went up from 2.8 million cases to 3.5 million cases.
Likewise, contribution to the state exchequer by way of taxes also showed a hefty increase from Rs.10.5 billion to Rs.18.3 billion for the period ended November for this fiscal.
Church leaders claim that the cardinal's call will definitely make impact on the laity.
"The cardinal's message has just come. Besides, the faithful are also given such messages during the Sunday masses. We are giving the same call through the church magazines too," Varghese Thottayil, a priest in the Kochi diocese said.
"The response has been positive," he said. Christians make up 19 per cent of the 30 million-strong population of the state.
A study has shown that 72 per cent of the 42,365 road accidents in the state this year were because of drunken driving. Domestic violence induced by alcoholism is also on the rise in the state.